Why & How to Deal With Customer Complaints

When people are unhappy, they will often complain. Many businesses tend to try and ignore complaints, or pass them off as irrelevant, however, if dealt with well, they can actually provide your business with a strong advantage.

The most important reason why you should listen to complaints is very simple. If someone is complaining, the chances are, there is a problem in your products or service that is causing it. Listening to complaints allows you to find out what the problems are with your business, and solve them.

Types of Customer Complaints


Letters are a very common form of complaint; they are generally seen as the most official way of complaining. This means that most customers will only use a letter of complaint where they feel there is a serious dissatisfaction, and where the business has a separate address for complaints or head office.

Spoken Word to Employees

The most common form of complaint, particularly in retail businesses; is face to face with an employee (usually the front line staff). This could take the form of a passing word or gesture, and can be for small or large problems.

Although there is no official complaint in most cases, spoken word comments can provide information on the everyday problems that customers are experiencing, and provide an opportunity for your employees to solve these problems, both for these customers, and for future ones.

Phone Calls

These are another common form of complaint, generally used for informal minor complaints, but can also be used by a highly dissatisfied customer who does not wish to write. The frequency of phone complaints generally depends on how much your business uses the phone; a call centre will receive many more complaints than a basic office line.


Emails are similar to letters; however they tend to describe smaller problems that are expected to be solved in a much quicker time. The number of email complaints you receive will depend mostly on how widely you use email, and whether there is a specific enquiry or complaints email address.

How to Solve Customer Complaints


One of the best ways to help make unhappy customers feel better about your business is to listen. This shows that you care about your customers, and are looking out for them.

Employees receiving customer complaints should always be friendly, polite, and helpful; and try their best to resolve the problem if they can. Even if a problem cannot be totally solved, the fact that your business did everything you could to help will make the customer feel much less negative about your business, hopefully enough to keep them with you (so you can ensure they are fully satisfied next time around!).

Sometimes it can be difficult for an employee to feel like helping an angry customer, particularly if the problem is not their fault; however it is crucial that they remain polite and helpful at all times.

Remember that body language is a large part of communication, so listening while looking away will just make the customer think you are ignoring them.

Always Offer a Solution

When a customer complains, you should always offer them a solution to the problem. If you cannot directly fix the problem, offer them something else to try and keep them satisfied.

There are many different types of solution, including replacing the product, offering a refund or money off their next purchase, and of course, apologising!

How and Why to Encourage Customer Complaints

Open Details

The best way to encourage complaints and comments is to have open contact details. Include a contact address, phone number, and email address on all correspondence, allowing customers to contact you immediately and easily in the event of a problem. The quicker they can contact you, the quicker you can solve their problems.

Friendly Staff

Having friendly and helpful staff will encourage customers to talk about problems they are having with your business, helping to solve problems before they happen. Friendly staff will also help you to deal with complaints, listening to customers rather than trying to argue with them.

Comment Slips

Give customers the opportunity to tell you how they feel about your business. Provide them with comment slips or invite large customers to speak with you personally about how they feel about your business.

On correspondence, state that you are open to contact on problems, e.g.: “If you have any problems, do not hesitate to contact us.” Etc…

If you invite comment, then people are more likely to respond, giving you a better look at the both the positive and negative areas of your business, and allowing you to deal with them as necessary.

Do Not Forget!

  • No matter how bad a problem is, no employee should be subjected to any personal insults or threats from a complaining customer.
  • Encourage complaints rather than silence, but customers must not be allowed to threaten your employees in any way.
  • Even well run businesses will receive complaints at some point.
  • Letters of complaint are generally used for bigger companies, particularly where there is a serious problem.
  • Spoken word complaints are common, especially in retail businesses, and can be used for all types of complaint.
  • Phone and email complaints are generally used for less serious complaints, but generally need to be dealt with more quickly than letter complaints.
  • Complaints allow you to see the faults in your business and fix them.
  • Customer who have a problem solved successfully are often more loyal than those who never had a problem in the first place!
  • Customers who complain are much (up to 10 times) more likely to stay with your business than those who say nothing.
  • Winning a new customer costs up to 5 times more than keeping an old one.
  • Complaints can point to weaknesses in your staffing and systems, allowing you to help make improvements.
  • Always listen politely to complaint, and offer as much help as possible. Always offer some form of solution, even if it is not exactly what the customer asked for.
  • Keep your details open, allowing customers to contact you quickly and easily, consider offering comment slips to keep up to date with how they feel your business is running.
  • No matter how badly a customer has been treated, never allow your employees to feel threatened by them.

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